Microphone Testing

In the previous pages, we covered the audio output aspect of the Corsair Vengeance headsets. However, the headphone aspect of the gaming peripherals is only part of the package that requires testing as the two headphones feature attached microphones. The microphones on the Vengeance 1300 and Vengeance 1500 are noise canceling, unidirectional microphones mounted on an adjustable boom and attached to the left ear cup. According to Corsair, the specifications for the Vengeance series mics are as follows.

  Vengeance 1300 Vengeance 1500
Type unidirectional condenser unidirectional condenser
Features noise canceling, adjustable boom noise canceling, adjustable boom
Frequency Response 100Hz to 10kHz 100Hz to 10kHz
Sensitivity -41dB (+/-3dB) -44dB (+/-3dB)

 

To test the microphones, I ran through both offline and online tests using several different applications. For the offline tests, I recorded myself speaking and also used the Speech Recognition software included in Windows 7 to do some basic navigation and text dictation. Then, to test how well the microphones worked for voice communications, I used Google's Gmail Calling, Skype, and the Windows Live game chat included in Dirt 3 (PC).

Naturally, there is only so much that any headset manufacturer can do microphone quality wise with such a small area at the end of a boom., so you will need to keep your expectations in check if you are considering a headset on the basis of pure audio input quality. In my setup, and as you might notice listening to the audio samples from each microphone (linked below), they did okay at picking up my voice. On the other hand, they were not able to filter out all the background noise and there is some definite noise audible in the tracks as a result. Fortunately, the vocals still come through clear, making them decent for voice communication or a quick "note to self" recording, but not so much for production quality recordings (where you should really be looking at dedicated microphones).

For the microphone testing, I plugged the Vengeance 1300 into the rear audio ports on the sound card to ensure that I got the best sound possible, just as with the previous tests. The Vengeance 1500 connects over a single USB cable, so there was no further setup required there. Once connected, I opened an audio editor that included a sound monitor and played with the microphone volume levels until they were correct.

For the Vengeance 1500, that involved setting the Microphone level to 100 in Windows Recording Device's Properties dialog (Levels tab). The Vengeance 1500 headset further provided enhancement options; however, I left them unchecked as they seemed to do more harm than good in some cases. For the Vengeance 1300, I set the microphone level to 75 in the Microphone Properties dialog box and also navigated to the "Custom" tab where there was an option for "Microphone +20dB Boost" that I checked. The boost option was necessary to get levels high enough to clearly hear my recorded voice.

Recording samples from the two headsets are available here.

Now that we have the considerations and setup down, let's jump into the testing of the actual hardware.

Offline Tests – Recording and Speech Recognition

Before I jumped into a game to try the Vengeance series' microphones, I tested them offline to get an idea of how well they worked before introducing the major variable, and barrier to clean results, that is the Internet and telephone networks. In order to get proper results, I used an audio editor with a level meter to help me get the levels right such that I would not be blowing out the microphone or sound too quiet when talking. I then recorded myself speaking into each of the Vengeance series headsets in turn, and listened to the resulting recordings to see how they really made my voice sound. I noticed that the microphones were not able to weed out all of the background noise, and there was a noticeable hiss in the recording as a result. However, the vocals could still be heard and for live communications that is what counts. I would have liked them to be even more unidirectional than they are to try to further eliminate the background noise, but it is not something that is necessarily possible with hardware right now at appropriate price points. For voice communications or personal recordings, the microphones work well on both headsets, but they aren't ideal for production quality recordings.

I also played around with the Windows Speech Recognition software to benchmark how well they worked to dictate text and navigate around the screen. The speech recognition software is very demanding and requires a good microphone to work well. My SteelSeries microphone fell flat in this area in the past when trying to use it, but when I tried my USB-based Blue Yeti mic, Windows Speech Recognition worked as perfectly as such software can be expected to run. With that baseline in mind, I compared the Vengeance headsets' mics.

Specifically, I used the speech recognition software to open the start menu, navigate to All Programs, then to Core Temp, and opened it with my voice. I then closed Core Temp, opened the start menu again, and searched for Notepad. It found the program, and I highlighted it. I then opened Notepad and started dictating text.

Both the Vengeance 1300 and Vengeance 1500 performed admirably in this test and managed to pull off a perfect score. I did not have to repeat or resort to using the mouse and keyboard during my basic testing. You should keep in mind that I have spent quite a bit of time training Windows to my voice and have learned how to talk at my computer such that it understands me. Aside from the usual speech hiccups (hi is typed as high, ect) as a result of the software, the test was a big success. The Vengeance hardware had no issues.

Conclusion: Both the Vengeance 1300 and Vengeance 1500 did well in testing by delivering clear vocals. They did not manage to cancel out as much of the background noise as I would have liked, however.

Online Testing – Google Voice, G+, Skype, and Windows Live (Dirt 3 PC)

I then decided to test the microphones in the situations they were designed for: online voice communications. The two services that I used the most were Skype and the Windows Live voice chat in Dirt 3. I also used a bit of Google Voice calling using the headsets to call both landlines and cell phones.

The Vengeance 1300's boom mic

In Dirt 3, Microsoft provides the GFWL overlay which can certainly be a pain; however, it does make it easy to talk to my little brother for free since he does not have a cell phone and is always on his Xbox (hehe). In testing the headsets, I used both the Vengeance 1300 and Vengeance 1500 at least twice each over the past several weeks and each time he said that the voice quality was good and he was able to clearly understand me. He further, wanted to know what headset I was using as his Xbox friends' headsets do not sound nearly as good (heh). Not exactly objective testing but a positive nod nonetheless.

On the Skype front, I used the Vengeance headsets a few times when in writing meetings and to talk to a couple friends briefly. I never received any complaints about the headset, and they said I sounded better with the Vengeance headsets versus the SteelSeries mic mounted on the desktop monitor which tended to pick up too much background noise from the TV.

Both of the tests above where essentially computer to computer calls over the Internet. Beyond those tests, I decided to give them a go for my Google Voice needs, and used both the Vengeance 1300 and 1500 series headsets to call cell phones and landlines using the free Gmail calling web application and Google Voice app (which are essentially the same thing but when done from within Gmail, calls are free). They worked well overall, and the few issues I encountered where my voice got cut off or static in the line where more so to do with signal reception on the other end since I did not run into the issues on the other tests. I was able to successfully order an upgraded Internet package and cable card from Comcast, and I have to say that the mic worked well but the headsets themselves also made the "forever waiting on hold" experience much more tolerable.

Further, I did test the headsets a bit in TF2 voice chat with some forum friends and did not have a problem communicating with them. I did not get any complaints about the mic picking up too much background noise, and they noted that the microphone was better than my usual one.

Conclusion: In the end, I didn't notice any major problems on my end outside of 'normal' Internet and cell phone variance. People on the receiving end of the calls further noted good call quality and being able to easily hear my voice.

Microphone Testing – Hardware (Control Pod)

Both the Vengeance 1300 and Vengeance 1500 series headsets from Corsair have inline control pods that feature volume control and microphone mute and un-mute switches. In the case of the Vengeance 1300, the microphone mute control is a small vertical switch with white paint indicators of switch position (mute and open) featuring a small microphone for live, and that same microphone with a slash through it for muted mode respectively. The switch worked as expected. On the Vengeance 1500, the control pod is a bit fancier and the microphone controls are in the form of a small silver colored button in the middle of the inline control pod above the volume buttons. When the microphone is muted, the LEDs (light emitting diodes) turn a red/orange color, and when the mic is in the clear (not muted) the LEDs surrounding the volume buttons turn a blue color. The control pod does seem to get a bit warmer when the microphone is muted for long periods of time but not close to a temperature that merits worrying about. The mute button on the 1500 also worked as expected and the quick visual feedback indicating the mic status is a nice touch.

Conclusion: Everything works as you would expect it to, and feels sturdy. After using both headsets for a few weeks, the button and switch on the respective headsets still feel firm and do not feel worn out.

Conclusion

The microphones may need a bit of configuring on your system to get the perfect levels (else the 1300 is too quiet), but once you have them set up, they work very well for what they are designed to do: deliver good enough voice quality to organize your squad in BF3, race your friends in Dirt 3, and maybe even make a few VOIP calls back home. The mics aren't perfect but they get the job done and don't hold the gaming headsets back.

Continue on to the next page for the final conclusion!

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